The result of a brilliant collaboration between Michele Forgione, chef and owner of the beloved Old Port restaurant Osteria Venti, and Stefano Faita, son of Elena Faita—one of the most celebrated Montréal-culinarians, Impasto and Pizzeria Gema aim to present classic and authentic Italian specialties.
Opened in July 2013, Impasto changed Little Italy forever. It stood out from its competitors by developing a reputation for delicious meals made with high-quality ingredients.
Located on the corner of Rue Dante and Rue Saint Dominique, Impasto presents a very simple interior. The kitchen is open for the public to observe, and tiled walls and wooden tables give the restaurant a young vibe.
The menu is small, changing daily to feature six starters, four pasta dishes, four meat plates, and a dessert selection. All the dishes are inspired by ingredients available at local markets. The chefs pack immense flavour into small dishes; as such, it’s recommended to order a number of plates to share.
The restaurant’s roasted octopus with navy beans is tender, with a nice sear on the outside, similar to the smoked caciocavallo on offer—a cheese similar to mozzarella—which is grilled to a slightly-melted consistency. They also offer market tomatoes with house-made burrata cheese, as well as a string bean, potato, and mint salad. These two dishes make for a refreshing combination, and are a great way to celebrate the fresh produce of early autumn.
However, the pasta at Impasto is the clear highlight of the menu. All pastas are made in-house and are cooked to al dente perfection. Favourites include the ricotta gnocchi in a tomato basil sauce, and casarecce, a long twisted pasta, dressed with an almond basil pesto and garnished with cherry tomatoes.
For dessert, the tiramisu—a classic Italian dessert—is presented in a small mason jar, with piled layers of cream, espresso, ladyfingers, and some shaved chocolate. The sweet and bitter flavours meld together to yield a delicious dessert.
Across the street from Impasto, Pizzeria Gema is perfect for large get-togethers or picking up a late-night Neapolitan-style pizza and frozen custard. Pizzeria Gema offers both dining and take-out options, with a menu comparable to Impasto’s—although slightly less expensive.
Forgione worked to perfect his pizza recipes for over a year before opening the restaurant, and even asked other chefs for advice. A crowd-favourite is the “1889”, a simple and classic Margherita pie with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil. There are no overwhelming flavours; the tomatoes, cheese, spice, and dough work together perfectly.
One of the more unique pizza offerings at Pizzeria Gema is the Emilia, a riff on a white pizza—a pizza that has no tomato sauce— with a thyme cream, lardo, mushrooms, and onions. Another delicious combination is aptly named the Impasto, which features layers of porchetta (thinly sliced stuffed pork), smoked caciocavallo, and cherry peppers, garnished with a refreshing salsa verde.
The frozen custard is also a must-try. Available in French Vanilla and Belgian Chocolate, this frozen dessert is lighter than the typical ice cream, and is a perfect ending to a meal.